Sunday, December 21, 2008

Christmas Message 2008

F and R Christmas Message 2008

Christmas Cheer from R&F – our blog is at :
Check it out if you haven’t already.
Our year has been filled with lots of adventure and travels – Beside our main adventure and shift to Samoa, I have visited Fiji briefly for a week. F has seen a bit more of the Pacific with such memorable destinations as two trips to Port Morseby in PNG and instructions in how not to get a mozzie bite and four trips to Fiji but seeing little of either country.
We have settled into the tropic lifestyle and are steadily improving the house. We now have a third source of water that actually works and keeps our tank full. The rains have still not kicked in with only occasional showers and storms. Our other major source of enjoyment is a “real” lounge. We were able to purchase a secondhand 3.5 and a 2.5 seat lounge suite. This had filled our lounge room and made our home life so much more enjoyable. Oh !! To stretch out and relax on a soft lounge with a fan cooling you, watching a DVD – sheer luxury.
We have been very lucky with our power supply with very few interruptions while you hear horror stories from other parts of town of spoilt food in fridges and freezers. We lived for three days without water, but it could be carried from the next house and I filled every container I could find and ran the hose out for most of the distance.
I have made a diverse range of friends nearly all women. Beside attending the Women’s Morning Tea at Paddles Restaurant on Tuesday mornings for a chat on the latest gossip and what’s happening (there is also a broadcast email), I have been part of an art group and have nearly finished my second oil painting to decorate our house. My art teacher had an exhibition at a local restaurant and our art group was part of the 35 who attended the opening night. I have made lots of friends at Hash from a diverse range of countries and cultures. I have come to know the airport as a second home as people come and go at all hours of the night as we meet and greet. I am looking forward to more aqua activities next year with some scuba diving, u/w photography and fishing. We also hope to add some international travel to the itinerary.
My macro cooking skills are expanding – I have cooked for two dozen hashers and have been promoted from goffer to cook (although I did have assistance from Ian from PNG, as we manned a BBQ each) at the end of year BBQ catering for 51. It is not just the cooking but knowing where to buy the required items.
My children are both ending 08 on a positive note with D in London being granted a 5 year extension to his visa. M&G in Perth are well settled with a new swimming pool for their boys C and A.
F has had a year of some very low lows and some great highs including of course our move to Samoa. She is looking forward to 2 weeks holiday here in Samoa and the opportunity to see a little more of this beautiful country. She also passes on her thanks and love to all those who have supported her through this tumultuous time.

We will be enjoying Christmas Dinner at Sinalei Resort with expat friends and are booked on the barge to Savaii (the big island) for 5 nights at a resort.
Comms – we now have Skype to landline ( at times this can be problematic so if you get a call and can’t hear us, we may try again).
We wish everyone a wonderful Christmas and New Year and look forward to great times ahead.
All the best to everyone – love R & F.

Hash Christmas Carols, my naming ceremony

F and D at a farewell festival (It was only three bowls of Karva)

Hash Christmas Carols, my naming ceremony – F attends her second Hash

8Dec08 Hash
I was part of the Apia Hash Christmas Carols Run, I didn’t run except the first part and then hitched a ride on the Fire Engine as the Hash of about fifty ran through downtown Apia and stopped to sing Christmas Carols at five different restaurants and night clubs. Santa dispensed lollies to children, vehicles and buses, security personnel, and patrons of the various establishments. The fire engine had flashing red lights, a wicked screeching siren and of course a clanking bell with hashers running fore and aft in their elves attire. Were else in the world can you ride a fire engine in the capital city and have such a good time.
We were rewarded with a glass of beer each at the establishments for our efforts of singing accompanied by Godfather on his ukulele. Unfortunately it started to rain after the third stop and the long run back from Paddles restaurant was in torrential rain. As we entered the driveway of the host the person in front of me on the side of the fire engine jumped off – I now know why – a cascade of water from a gutter sans downpipe. If I wasn’t completely soaked before I certainly was after passing under this waterfall. The night was memorable for me and also F– down downs for hosting last week’s hash, for wearing my yellow and green jesters hat and not Santa’s red regulation ( although I pleaded that I had a Santa tie around my neck and a red balloon tied to my hat – to no avail). Next was my naming ceremony – as I knelt before the omnipresent MONK (no flares burning or Dame Edna’s glasses) a quarter pound of flour was rubbed into my hair with cooking oil and beer and other potions, next was the naming – I shall now be known as “Slippery” within the circle – then the drinking of the “Bats Brew”, a somewhat jellied vodka concoction and skolling Vailima from a rather small nipple attached to a large breast mug. It was now time to arise and take my place in the circle. I quickly adjourned to a tap to remove the goop from my hair and shirt (easier said than done). After a few more down downs it was time for tucker and the odd ale (this was a double keg night to really celebrate Christmas, donated by Shafter’s family). F took a somewhat inebriated “Slippery” home for another shower. So endeth the day. Pics to follow.

The lead up to Christmas has been hectic –

Last Sunday we accompanied several friends to lunch at Sinalei Resort. On the way we stopped at the Papapapaita Waterfall. While “I” and myself snorkeled out offshore to the plate coral gardens, the rest of the crew enjoyed the surroundings. Then there was lunch and a swim in the Sacred Dog Spring at the end of the jetty before the trip back to Apia. An enjoyable day for everyone.

Pics - Papapapaita Falls, sorting the snorkeling gear at the restaurant, plate coral gardens, snorkeling the dropoff, Sacred Dog Spring (note the fresh water gushing up).

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Hash and batching

Hosting HASH and batching
Well it finally rolled round to my turn to host the HASH, unfortunately you never know how many will turn up. So I was told to assume around 25 – 15 chicken thigh/legs (cut into 3 pieces each), 5 of which I put in oven bags and boiled in orange juice; 48 sausages and 6 chicken franks; I also cooked a large beef florentien (mushroom, tomato and basil) with rice accompanied by loaves of bread, crackers and cheese, corn chips, and sliced onions. A feast for the 24 who turned up and then there was the huge slab of chocolate cake and ice cream for dessert. The uni security guys also fared well when I took them a large platter and later the leftovers. The last hashers left after 9.30 completing an excellent evening, the new Monk was not able to attend so my naming ceremony was not on the agenda, although I scored a myriad of down-downs. I locked the gates as the last hasher left, stacked the chairs, pots and pans upstairs and retired to a shower and crashed, just a tad inebriated. Unfortunately F was away in Fiji and missed the fun.
So this has been a batching week for me and I got to go fishing and swimming on the weekend. The water was cold being spring fed into a lava tube with resident fish so it was a short swim and snorkel as I arrived late and it closed at 4.00pm. It is situated on the grounds of the Piula Methodist Theological College at Saoluafata about 25 k east of Apia. On Sunday evening, I tried flicking lures on a headland where I had seen locals fishing, 40 minutes produced no strikes and I had an alternative invitation to join friends at Giordanos Pizzeria and they have the best tropical salads. Although last Friday, I joined the girls for an up market lunch, it was for a send-off, at Bistro Tatau. Their tiger prawn salad was also very YUM. As you can tell, I am not much at making salads, so I scoff them when out on the town.
Tomorrow I am going snorkeling at Palolo Deep Marine Reserve.
I packed all my gear into a shoulder fishing bag caught the bus to Beach Road and walked the k to Palolo Reserve, 3 tala gets you access to a shower, toilets, well kept grounds with lots of tables and fales and two small beaches. So I snorkeled for over an hour, showered off and ate my morning tea as I dried off. It was just beautiful to dive with the schools of small turquoise fish and get some exercise. The Deep has seen some fatalities as you are swimming in a bowl on the reef, and on an outgoing tide it rushes out through passes to a lower sea level and can be quite treacherous. So I only snorkel on the last of the incoming tide and usually only in the finger closest to shore. (Thanks to Google Earth for the image) This rule must be applied to any lagoon and reef situation. A family from Germany was very impressed when I gave them some cheese pieces to feed the fish as they snorkeled with their young daughters. Then it was some shopping and a taxi home.
The NUS bus is becoming less frequent with only one bus operating since exams finished. I fear the Green Machine that I featured previously with the shattered wind screen has found a resting place or a make-over (Some say a good thing as the rear axel seals were leaking, that makes brakes not want to work, and the bald rear tyres would not help) to be replaced with the Han00k Tires flag bus, that lacks even a sound system and a driver who travels down to town in neutral. He also clashes gears frequently, this jars my teeth to say nothing of the gearbox.
The Primary School across the road had their end of year prize giving today, 3 large tents were erected on the oval for students, guests and dignitaries. One girl scooped the awards with prizes for English, Samoan, Maths, History and Local Studies. Although there is an emphasis on education in Samoa the main cost is the compulsory uniform that precludes poor families from sending their children to school. So one uniform has to last a student several years. The school across the road has very good local support that was apparent today and I always say Talofa (Hello) to everybody when walking down the street. The PA system was an awesome affair but the music was a good selection mostly in English, they love a bass beat that can rattle windows at some distance. So from next week there will be silence where there is usually some class singing or reciting tables, usually trying to out-do another class. Everybody sings the national anthem at the flag raising with a drum section emphasizing each important phase of the morning assembly. School hours are from 8am to around 1.30pm with two short breaks.
I finally competed my first oil painting and have hung it in the lounge room, it’s a just hatched turtle with a split scene.
R of R&F

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Tribute to Shafter (The MONK)

Shafter puts the case for a Down Down on a fellow hasher at the Tafatafa Beach run.

Hash Farewell- The Monk – “Shafter”

The Apia Hash has lost one of it’s “Characters”, a person who moves outside the square, one who embraces life, shakes it and touches those within the circle.
Please refer to:
I spent time on Saturday being a goffer, building a crypt/grave in the Samoan style. First you dig the grave, thankfully we were able to get a backhoe in the day before, then lay a concrete footing around the edge, brick concrete blocks to ground level and fill the blocks with cement and cement the floor (with drain holes) and then make 4 removable slabs for the roof. As goffer I screened the shell grit in a drum with screen wire to get a fine sand to use as brickies loam, mixed and poured cement, held the tent down in the rain squalls and kept the GM supplied with diet coke.
I was looking forward to kneeling in front of The Monk (for my naming ceremony) who always looked so good in his rendition of Dame Edna with a smoke flare burning, OH!!! the gumboots (as long as you didn’t have to drink from them), the gloves, the purple cape and the evil Bats Blood brew. He carried it off so well !!!!
The funeral service on Monday was from 10am to final burial around 3pm. Then it was back to the Yacht Club for the Hash run and circle. Unfortunately I was sick, missed the run but not the down down for being thoughtful in bringing the diet coke on Saturday. Such is life, any excuse for a mug of Vailima, even those who turned up late in relatively new runners where drinking Vailima through straws from their footware.

Not much news
It has been a rainy weekend with evening storms up the mountain, I have been tinkering with the TV antenna and have improved the reception somewhat. Local channels are VBTV, 1 and 3, Chinese CCTV, Morman BYU, and 2 is religious. News on 1 and 3 have an English edition after the main Samoan news. International news is from NZ and is repeated over breakfast. There is also pay satellite available with a large upfront cost of buying the dish.
I got to the fish market very early last week and bought two Red Snapper that were baked in lime and wrapped in alfoil on the BBQ ( Two very YUM meals). So we are not starving and the banana/lime run to the local fruit veg market is becoming a habit after breakfast.
Our water situation sees our tank filled on the weekends when the tower tanks fill at the uni, so far we have had no new leaks to confront in the poly piping.
Thanks to those who leave comments on the blog we look forward to them.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Back from AUS 12 NOV 08

Back from Aus. 12NOV08

We are both back from a short stay in Aus ( with overflowing suitcases). The garden plants have shot up with the occasional storm rain. The diesel power plant has had some issues while we were away as the hydro generator has been offline due to lack of rain. This has caused the diesels to run excessive hours with two generators going offline. So we are enjoying power rationing on Upolo Island. We have been lucky and only seem to have interruptions overnight, other parts of Apia have day interruptions. These last a few hours and new parts have been flown in to repair the power station. This may add some stimulus to the building of a new facility that has been planned for some years.
While I was away F ran out of water in the tank and had to get a tanker in for a refill. I have found the leak after some digging and put on a temporary patch with a clamp and some garden hose. Other maintenance issues have been attended to including new lock sets for the 4 screen doors with locks sourced in Aus. Our art group will have some new brushes and oil paints. Also in progress is a BBQ bench on our verandah for our baby Weber.
I have removed the glass louvers and side mechanisms from the kitchen windows ready for painting. Actually got the first coat on this afternoon. When the white trim is finished we will have a very smart looking kitchen.

Last Monday’s run was near Apia Park Stadium, there were some problems with the run like the tide was “in” and although a valiant effort was made to piggy-back the girls across the flooded causeway the rest of us except one male who will remain nameless (Snake) ran the rest of the run with soggy boots. When accused of this misdemeanor he dunked both boots into the ice tub holding the keg, at least his feet were chilly while ours were hot and smelly. The keg had leaked into the ice filled esky and was not salvageable, so we sent for another. My contribution was two down downs, one for missing 3 runs and another for missing a protest march for the imprisonment of a Samoan national in the US for travelling with a US passport with which he was issued.

The Weber is no longer a virgin as tonight I cooked chicken legs in pineapple juice accompanied by stir fried frozen vegetables. Actually it was pretty good.

The plumber turned up this afternoon and we dug out the split pipe and while cutting it out, the next T joint gave way (no glue in the joint) so we fixed both problems. A lot of the plumbing (white polly piping with little or no glue in the joints) can survive with local water pressure, but when confronted by an electric pump at higher pressure either leak or blow off. So by just fixing leaking valves I have upped the pressure on the system and leaks have started to appear or got worse.
Social Scene
I made it to the Ladies Morning Tea at Paddles on Tuesday. There was a very large cruise ship in, the “Amsterdam” with lots of palangi (white) tourists in town. I avoided Macas and rushed the shopping for a sanga at home. Tomorrow is art group and I can dispense some new brushes and oils.


Pics - Fuipisia Falls, back of house, swing at Sa'moana Resort.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

White Sunday

White Sunday
Well we survived the White Sunday long weekend, each day we tried to do something different. Arrived at Sa’amoana Resort Friday evening just in time for Fia Fia night that started with a Arva welcoming ceremony of “carva” followed by a traditional umu (underground) baked meal. Then it was singing and siva dance by a local village group.
After a lazy Saturday breakfast it was into the van bound for the Sua Trench. (The surfers had a 5am wake-up call for the boat trip to the break where the boat is moored outside the surf.) After climbing down to a secluded beach I snorkeled back to a cave entrance in the cliff and two underwater swims into the hole with the ladder and climbed back out. Then it was a short walk to another trench and 5 meter jump into the water and another underwater swim through the cave to the surf and back again. It was a very low tide and only a low surge pounding the rocks. The climb out is through a tunnel in the cave. Then it was time for chocolate cake, fruit and water then the drive back to the resort.
Sunday we walked (with our golf umbrella and a water bottle) to the local Salamumu Methodist Church for White Sunday (Children’s Day). This is a celebration of children in all churches with special treats and lots to eat afterwards. The children put on skits and were all dressed in new mostly white clothes. Afternoons were spent around the pool and relaxing.
Monday morning we took a double ocean kayak for a paddle along the coast for a swim and a snorkel in front of the resort for F. The afternoon was a Hash run at Tafatafa Beach with the run starting at 2.30pm. We ran along the beach and track towards Nuusafee Island then it was through the scrub to a road and back to the coast road for a couple of k (a bit hot away from the beach breezes), then a shortcut back on a muddy track to the beach and an umu put on by Godfather, coconuts and free bottled beer. F already was sipping from a coconut when I staggered in and as there was limited beer (3 large eskys) I missed a down down although lots didn’t. Then it was into the food served on real china plates. Talking of Hash, last Monday we presented Samoa Lifeline with 3000 tala from our fundraising, it can be a lot of fun and friendship (not to mention the gumboot drinking) along with a more serious side. So we finally got back home in the dark to get ready for another week.
This week we got the 5.1 sound system installed and sound checked, and the broadband is in at last. I picked up canasta at Ladies Cards although some of the rules were different and I actually won a couple of hands. I started an oil painting of a turtle at art group on Thursday (11-4) and hope to finish it by Christmas. Gotta brush up on Mahjong.

R & F

Pics: Arva ceremony (welcoming each guest in turn hence the list), Fia fia meal, F and Anzac, Sua Trench, Coastline looking east and west, blowhole, pool cleaning with a difference, Hash.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Fiji Trip

30SEP08 (Waiting for a modem and an internet connection at home)
The House
It’s Friday today, we have been in our house for two nights, the dogs in the area can really go on a barking spree at times and then the roosters chime in anytime after 4.00am. There is also a large diesel generator that has a low rumble 24/7. Reminds me of my Uncle Claude’s farm situated out on the Darling Downs. We will get used to it and it will be just part of the background noise. Our street is a dead end further up the hill so the traffic is minimal. We have a view of the next bay east of the harbour and are on a good rise with the University grounds over the back fence, so the ocean breeze is refreshing. The place has the equivalent of 24 sets of ceiling to floor louvers so the breeze can flow through, although it is a bit of a cleaning task. We are just camping at present with minimal kitchen and bedding stuff, waiting for our boxes to arrive. I cooked spagbol last night which went down OK with a cuppa and lamington for desert. Our first cooked meal in the house. Gotta join that gym !!!!
All of the maintenance issues have been fixed on our house and our tank is filled with town water (we now have a private pipeline, although it is only a trickle into the tank) and a 20 liter bottle in our dispenser for drinking.
On the social side I joined the Ladies Morning Tea at Paddles Café overlooking the harbour on Tuesday, as the token male. It was just good to find things out and swap information on where to shop and what was happening in Apia.
Monday night was a rainy Hash and there was a last minute change of venue and just a road run until Godfather decided we needed to add an extra long block, a coconut never looked so refreshing. At least it wasn’t in the swollen creeks and scrub that was originally planned.
I also got to play lifeguard for a two year old at Paloa Deep as we counted coral and rocks and dropped them back into the water.

Next week we will be in Fiji so I hope to see some of the sights as we drive from Nandi to Suva and back, hope I can adjust to driving a right hand vehicle again.

Well we are back from Fiji, 3 nights Nadi, 3 in Suva and an evening in Nadi waiting for the midnight flight to Samoa. Night flights suk !!! On our way to Fiji it was up at 2am, taxi booked for 2.45am, flight at 5.35am, I am not a morning person. Unfortunately I booked late and Business Class was the only seat available, so while I was in food and service heaven, F was back down the isle and because of turbulence didn’t get anything to eat or drink. We crashed at our hotel to emerge late Sunday for a drive to Nadi and Port Denerau ( a copy of a Gold Coast canal and marina development, about 1500 rooms in Hotels, shuttle buses etc.)
I went on a day package to Mala Mala Island, which was good value, although the coral was not a patch on Samoa. This was probably because of siltation from the mainland as Mala Mala is one of the closest islands with about a one hour run from Denerau. Overall I enjoyed myself and met some interesting people. One interesting person we ran into was Colleen Hewitt (Hair – the musical) as she signed a guitar and talked to a singer in a shop. In Suva I visited the Fiji Museum and read about the waves of settlement of the Pacific in the last 5000 years. The war clubs, cannibalism and the utensils for eating humans were a bit ghoulish (see the background behind Colleen), I didn’t buy any wooden forks for eating eyes and brains.
On Saturday evening the hotel had a dance and fire troup, some pics attached.
We flew back from Nadi and returned to our house at dawn to be awoken by amplified reverb music from a sports carnival on the uni oval, so much for sleep, it was time for breakfast anyway and shopping and checking out the volleyball comp. After a late sleep-in on Sunday we went to Sinalei for lunch and a snorkel, a lazy day before work starts again for F and I prep and paint the kitchen.
The Kitchen looks good in Sky Blue(it was on special), next is to do the white trim. I painted it with a brush, so I’m waiting a while for the next step. Also my left shoulder is missing some bark from a stumble on slippery rocks on Monday evening’s Hash run or should I say a marathon through jungle and cow paddocks. The teaming rain on the run back was just a relief, they did warn us to bring a change of clothes.